Santa Ono, President of the University of British Columbia, Canada
For Santa Ono, starting his new job as president of UBC is a heartfelt homecoming. In many ways, his life has come full circle – he was born in St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver in 1962, when his father was a professor at UBC.
His parents left post-war Japan when his father, an accomplished mathematician, was lured to the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies by director Robert Oppenheimer on the recommendation of the famed mathematician André Weil.
His family moved to Vancouver when his father accepted a faculty position in UBC’s math department, but moved to the United States a few years later. Although he has spent most of his life outside Canada, Ono did have a memorable experience at McGill University, where he earned not only his PhD in Experimental Medicine, but also the hand of his Chinese-Canadian wife, Wendy Yip.
As a professor of medicine and biology, Ono has worked at Harvard, Johns Hopkins, University College London, and Emory universities. He was also inducted by Johns Hopkins into its Society of Scholars, which honors former faculty who have gained distinction in their fields. Ono’s research encompasses the immune system, eye inflammation and age-related macular degeneration – a leading cause of blindness.
As a university administrator, Ono is also known for his vision beyond the laboratory. He was the first Asian-American president of the University of Cincinnati when he was appointed in 2012. Previously, he served as the University Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs. Prior to his recruitment to the University of Cincinnati, Ono was Senior Vice Provost and Deputy to the Provost at Emory University.
Ono is deeply committed to diversity, and his achievements were recognized by the American Council on Education with an award that honors individuals who have demonstrated leadership and commitment on a national level to the advancement of racial and ethnic minorities in higher education.
In addition, Inside Higher Education named him America’s most notable university president in 2015. Ono uses social media frequently to connect directly with followers and students. Ono has used social media to spread awareness about mental illness and to share his own struggles as a high-achieving student who battled depression.
Adding to his impressive list of accomplishments, Ono has been named a recipient of the 2016 National Association of Asian American Professionals (NAAAP) 100 award. He was selected to the Talloires Network Steering Committee in 2016.